Posts Tagged ‘Civil Rights’

The Act Bearing Witness: The Campaign for Southern Equality

January 13, 2013

I’m lucky: I live in a state that grants equal rights to all citizens. You know, that little tiny one that has a host of legal benefits called “marriage”. There is an organization that is working in the south try change the laws so that all citizens have the right to marry the person they love. The Campaign for Southern Equality is working to raise awareness, change the laws and bring equality to citizens in one of the most hostile regions of the country.

I’ve said it a thousand times and I’ll say it a thousand more: I don’t care what your religious doctrine says about gay marriage. I truly don’t. My religion, church and congregation affirm marriage of all couples (and was one of the first in the nation to do so). It’s welcoming in the definition of the world welcoming: not the hip/trendy we are for gay rights that seems to permeate many congregations. I really, really, really don’t care what your interpretation of God is when it comes to my rights (but, unless you are willing to live by the entire literal teaching of The Bible, I’m also not interested in a discussion with you on the subject.

About this time every year, I become angry as I’m reminded I’m not a full citizen in the eyes of my government. I find it odd since apparently I qualify as a “Daughter of the American Revolution” (yeah, something about leaving Massachusetts for Ohio in the 18th century) and have some indigenous heritage as well (talk about not having the energy for apologist history). Every year when I complete my Massachusetts return, I’m reminded how in the eyes of the federal government, I don’t have the same rights. I don’t have the right to survivor benefits (Sally Ride’s wife doesn’t; Neil Armstrong’s wife does), I am not automatically given the right to make medical decisions for my spouse, don’t even go there with what can happen to inheritance issues in states that don’t recognize marital equality.

I’ll never understand how anybody can think my (non-existent) marriage can be a detriment to their marriages. This is civil rights: this is the equality of all citizens.

Tomorrow, two friends of mine will apply to have their legally obtained marriage license registered in the state of their current residence. It will be denied. They know it will. It won’t make it hurt less. It doesn’t make it less wrong. All it means is that in the 21st century, two people who I’m honored to call friends will be denied the rights that straight people take for granted. They both hold advanced degrees; they both work for justice. One likes basketball, one likes the Oscar Ceremonies the point of obsession. They are both normal women who love each other. And tomorrow, in the land of the ‘free’, they will be told and all of us who love them will be reminded of how they are oppressed by the state they live in and by the federal government. Yes, we’ve come a long way in under a decade, but we have so further to go. And until then, people like my friends will be told to their faces “their kind” (my kind) isn’t welcome in our country. And that is nothing short of shameful.

North Carolina and Amendment One: A Chance to Say No to Bigotry

May 4, 2012

Most of the time, state ballot intaitives amuse me: should we repeal a liquor tax? What about letting people smoke pot in public? I tend to think of it is the great political revenge of letting voices be heard on some entertaining issues.

Not so next week in North Carolina.  Next week voters in North Carolina are seeking to define relationships.  Currently, the Tar Heel State is does not recognize gay marriage. Now, they are seeking to ban it.  The legislature this year managed to place on the ballot the following:

Constitutional amendment to provide that marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.

If this amendment passes, North Carolina’s Constitution would read as follows:

“Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.”

Marriage, not civil unions, not domestic partnerships, is the only legal union.  To some people, there might not be a distinction between only allowing heterosexually married couples to receive the government benefits of marriage.  There is: this proposed amendment has the potential to impact domestic abuse charges, custody and support rights in non-married heterosexual couples.

There has long been the stereotype of the ‘narrow minded Southerner’.  This amendment promotes that stereotype.  In a telling quote, Majority Leader Rep. Paul Stam (R-NC 37) stated “They’re going to bring with them their same-sex marriages. They’re going to want to get divorced and have custody issues decided”, he said. “We’re not equipped to handle that.”  Rep. Stam, let me personally assure you, the gay community is not interested in rushing to North Carolina to get divorced.

Maybe one day I’ll understand how individuals can think my decision on who to marry has any impact on his/her relationships (aside from the obvious affair).  Passage of this amendment would be a giant step backwards.  Not just for the LGBT community but for every citizen of North Carolina, and by extension everybody who knows and loves somebody in the Tar Heel State.

I find it bemusing that the political party which staunchly opposes perceived intrusions into our personal lives supports such a reaching decision.  This is bigotry.  This is fear mongering.  This is hatred of the other.

My only hope and prayer is that the people of North Carolina see this for what it is worth and refute the amendment.  We all deserve better.

Dear Mr. Obama, Maybe You Should Look at Your Laws on LGBT Rights First.

December 7, 2011

A friend of mine posted The Presidential Memorandum — International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons that the White House released quietly yesterday.  In reading it, I could literally feel my eyes narrow and my anger build.  President Obama provided the following opening statements:

“That is why I declared before heads of state gathered at the United Nations, “no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.”  Under my Administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere.  Our deep commitment to advancing the human rights of all people is strengthened when we as the United States bring our tools to bear to vigorously advance this goal.”

I had to read it several times: yes, the President of the United States stated “no country should deny people their rights because of who they love”.  President Obama is obviously heterosexual married: if he wasn’t he couldn’t even make that statement as a leader whose own federal government denies same-sex benefits to some Federal employees, denies Federal benefits of the US tax code to legally married gayl couples (since marriage is deemed a ‘state right’) and has done little to prevent the rampant state-legislation of DOMA.

Oh, wait, President Obama, ends his memo with this chilling note to the LGBT community:

“This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.”

The ultra cynical side of me sees this (and I know since it’s a policy memo it’s a legal necessity) as a check mark: look at all the good things I’ve done for LGBT people, I can’t do anything else ::shrug:: I’ve got the Congress from hell.

I’ve never been a fan of any American president proclaiming to the world how other nations should act.  But this is a slap in my face that banks on the fact that the Republicans can’t nominate an equally tolerable candidate (I’m not an Obama fan) and there isn’t a real third-party option.  This is another example of Obama’s ‘safe position’ on anything.  Here are some facts about LGBT rights/protections in the United States:

1) There are no antidiscrimination laws for LGBT individuals. While crimes can be charged as a ‘hate crime’ under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of the 111th Congress, it is only an ancillary charge.  I can be turned down for a job for being gay: the application may say “xxx company doesn not discriminate against xyz” but there is not a federal law that protects me  in seeking employment from not being hired simply because I am gay.

2) One state allows conjugal visits for same-sex couples if one is in prison. One.  There is a LGBT caveat that the relationship had to exist prior to incarceration (heterosexual couples don’t have this same limitation).

According to the White House’s website, “President Obama also continues to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and believes that our anti-discrimination employment laws should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. He supports full civil unions and federal rights for LGBT couples and opposes a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.”  But in the words of Elmer Fudd “Be vewy vewy quiet, I’m hunting wabbits” (or Obama’s case, elephants).

Look, I get that Obama has done more for LGBT rights than any US president: the LGBT community to a great extent does a good job of forgetting Bill Clinton signed DOMA into law: the same DOMA that is now causing a myriad of legal protection issues.  I get that the economy should be the number one issue for President Obama.  What I don’t get, can’t get and probably never will is that the same man who has the gall to tell the world how to treat LGBT citizens in other sovereign nations will not make a public policy speech demanding those rights for his own citizens, extending same-sex benefits for *all* Federal employees and stating the basic premise of leadership: I cannot and will not ask another (in this case a nation) to do something that I, myself, am unwilling to do.

My vote isn’t tied to my sexual orientation: please don’t assume that it is Mr. Obama.  You are simply lucky that there isn’t a viable candidate from the other party.